When you hear “interview prep,” you probably think of preparing answers about yourself, but have you thought about how you might respond when recruiters ask you questions about the company? You’re not only selling yourself for the position, but also selling yourself as a good fit for the organization as a whole. They might like you as a person, but if you appear to be clueless about what the company values, they’re likely to take a pass.

Having the right qualifications for the position is crucial to your success in the application process, but knowing what kind of culture fit they’re seeking is key to rocking the interview. You may not be able to know everything about a company without working there, but you can do your research to make sure you know enough to sound well-informed during the interview. Here are some things you should research before the big day:

1.The job description. A lot of employers will tell you what their organizational values are right on the job description. However, so many people hit “submit” on their application and never look back. Make sure you have a good grasp of what they’re looking for not only for the position itself but also see if they mention anything about the company culture. If they are a tech startup that values collaboration and ingenuity, you’ll want to talk about your ability to work with others and think on your feet. If you’re applying for a law office that values professionalism and a strong work ethic, your focus will be a little different.

You already know how to talk about yourself; what you need to know is how to talk about your own experiences in a way that aligns with what they’re looking for.  The job description is an excellent place to start.

2. The company website. Most companies will talk about their people, mission, and goals right on their company website. You should get familiar with each of these categories:

People: Who are the movers and shakers of the organization? Who leads the company? Is there a leadership team? Can you identify the person you’d be reporting directly to? If they have any kind of bios, you’d be smart to read them and be familiar with who they are. They probably won’t all be in the interview, but the more you know about the people who work there, the more you know about the company.

Mission: What do they value as a company? Helping customers? Creating quality products? Having a good reputation in the community? Being aware of these things can help shape the examples you use during the interview. If they value customer service, you’ll want to talk about a time you demonstrated strong communication skills and worked with a client to troubleshoot a problem. There’s no need to mention their mission statement verbatim, but you can talk about your similar values and how you’ve demonstrated these in the past in the context of your professional experience.  

Goals: What do they want as an organization? Increased sales? Employee satisfaction? What are they working towards? Being familiar with their goals will help you to align your major selling points with their vision for the future. Your last organization may not have had the exact same goals but try to find something from your experience that supports their company objectives and provide a specific example of a time you worked towards a similar one.

3. Social media/LinkedIn. Some companies have active social media accounts where they share important company updates, interact with customers, or post community events. If you want to know what going on in a company, start with what they’re communicating publicly. For example, if they clearly invest a lot in the community, it might be worth mentioning any volunteer work you’ve participated in. Knowing a company’s public persona will help you understand who they are behind-the-scenes.

It’s also a good idea to find the company’s LinkedIn profile and see if you have any connections from high school, college, or a previous job that already work there. Especially if you’re applying to larger companies, you might be surprised to see who works there that you already know. Who knows? Reaching out to this person might increase your visibility and give you a better shot at landing an interview. If nothing else, ask some questions about the company and see if you can get the inside scoop on what it’s like to work there.

4. The news. Google the company and click the “news” tab to research important events, promotions, international affairs, and other news-worthy happenings surrounding the company. Use what you find here to inform your answers to interview questions. If the company struggled last quarter, make sure and give an example of a time you overcame a difficult situation and drove results in the past. If the company performed very well, talk about how you plan to sustain the good work the company is doing, and encourage other employees to do the same. Having a better understanding of how the company is perceived regionally, nationally, and globally is an integral part of understanding how the company functions and what they prioritize.

Need more interview prep advice? We offer interview coaching sessions with our owner, Jeremy Shreve, who can help you walk through commonly asked questions, interview etiquette, and what you should know before the interview. You can find out about this service and more on our website.